hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

27 February 2013

A Call for Virtuous Video Games

I am not a fan of video games.

Mindlessly falling away into a realm of flashing lights and sounds of illusion is often a means to mental decay. Modern video games have become more concrete and closely parallel to society. People blast away at the avatars of others with artificial guns, peppering virtual bodies with imaginary bullets. The sights and sounds are brought to life before our eyes and the lack of abstraction takes us to a place we can perceive, without much thought, as reality. While this is often the basis for arguments against violent video games, I am not trying to debate against the content of these games, simply the premise and existence for them. At their core, they lack ingenuity. They are largely based off of war, sports, or racing, and while we typically may not  have access to the full extent of these activities in real life, the fact that these games are simply reflections of this reality does not aide in the mental development of players.

Video games need to be more intuitive, leaving more to the imagination and less to graphics. While technology becomes increasingly easier to use and manipulate, a higher creativity is required for furthering greater development. With fresh and innovative ideas, we can form technology as not only as a wondrous tool to eliminate grueling and grinding work (such as mindless data entry, etc) but a refreshing toy that teaches us how to think and learn.

We need technology to better our minds, not help them. VectorPark.com is a beautiful example of what improved technology can create. It breaks the mold for what video games have popularly become. It defines something new and strange, something that makes us think and learn, like children, developing a greater plasticity in which we can continue to learn and figure out the unknown. There is a small niche of these games in existence and they revolve around a philosophy of thought and intuition, rather than a dexterity of control. It challenges the mind by pushing the player into a flow state. If we, as a society, can learn to embrace the unique, the strange, and the challenging, we could develop a whole new line of video games and draw in a more intellectual audience that benefits society, rather than detract from it.

So start by playing Feed The Head, both for your intellectual and visual enjoyment. This game, like any form of art, holds the potential to inspire you.

25 February 2013

A Vlogumentary

Considering we spend so much time in front of screens, we might as well turn all of reality into screen life.
I have an idea for a long-term project. An ongoing documentary/vlog about the mundane aspects of reality that the Internet does not fully capture yet. Toothbrushing, showering, making the bed, walking, pressing elevator buttons, opening doors, tying shoes, preparing food, eating food, releasing food, talking, plugging in laptop chargers, breathing, zippering a backpack, folding sheets, pouring laundry detergent, drinking water, driving cars, filling cars with gasoline, opening cans, shaving, holding hands, buying groceries, mopping a floor, and smiling.
Each piece of this vlogumentary will highlight a different aspect of everyday living. There will be an entire segment focused on covering all aspects of trimming toe nails, for example, or swiping a Visa card at stores. Every time I clip a chunk of nail or fumble for my wallet, it will be recorded. The duration of each activity will vary on the topic. Toothbrushing may require 3-4 weeks of intensive filming while turning keys in locks may only require 48 hours.
I hope this project will help capture the fullness of what it means to be a modern day human. A 21st Century Homo Sapiens. Perhaps it will say something about the Do Easy method of living or the pointless amount of time we waste on simply surviving as opposed to prospering.
I think I will begin this project by filming myself eating. There is a lot to go off with this topic. Does the time of day I eat affect my appetite/mood? Does the food I consume affect my mental state, alertness, and/or emotions/personality? Is there a correlation between the type of food I consume and the time of day in which I consume said food?
I'm sure there is a proper scientific method for answering these questions and lots of thorough experiments I could apply to test and measure this, but I'll let more intelligent people do that job. I'll just start by recording.
The little red dot is blinking.

21 February 2013

Silicon Shuttles to a Synthetic State

On average, we spend <insert shockingly high but hopefully accurate statistic here> hours in front of a screen every day. These screens are windows to whatever we wish to see. The internet offers us places we’ve never been and people we’ve never met IRL. Our lives exist in front of them, our eyes scanning spreadsheets and two-dimensional newsfeeds when they were designed to perceive depth and location of prey we used to hunt. We have no reason to search after running animals when we can purchase preservative-pumped meat through online retailers. Computers take away our need to move beyond the glowing pixels in front of us.

With several hours spent before screens each day, one begins to wonder the aesthetic appeal of such devices. Is it the great graphics that draw us in? New Apple products are perpetually improving upon display and interface design. Is it the simple appeal of the Internet and the indirect connections we can make with other humans? Constant improvements on social media sites and web browsers are adapting to make these experiences increasingly easier to access, speedier, and more enjoyable. Whatever the case may be, we are spending exponentially more time before screens as “better” technology continues to develop. In this sense, a significant portion of our minds and presence exists within this virtual realm. We take up residence in our homepages and online media sites, but when we exit out of our browsers, we are faced with an image that overtakes our field of vision—our desktop.

Most often, these pieces of art are beautiful depictions of the real world, whether it is a panoramic view of mountains or oceans or a photo of family or friends. These pictures can be cycled and rotate, becoming abstract shapes and designs, but in whatever case, they are what we perceive as visually pleasant. If these images are constructs of actuality, as art is most often based off inspiration found in the real world, why is it that they make such a dominant presence in our virtual existence? Perhaps we are setting up a home in the screen, a place to find peace or silence when the world is loud or find action and life when reality goes dim? If computers are the places for our minds to explore and wander, the world is left to be a simple provider. Rather than be enjoyed or explored as a primary passion, it is a place we are simply stuck in and thus escape to the virtual realm. Beautiful desktop images serve as enjoyable views when glued to the screen. These pieces of art can be seen as indirectly evil, as they are offering a Land of Lotus leaves to our visual senses, enticing them to spend more time before the screen. For this reason, I have set my desktop to the most atrocious scene I could spawn:

Rather than waste away my years before a screen, lulled into satisfaction by misleading visual art mimicking the true beauty of the real world, I hope to spend less time in front of the screen and more time in reality. Despite the many great tools it can provide, the computer is a double-edged sword. We ask it questions and it answers them. If we ask it why we should spend more time in reality, it will give us an answer, perhaps even a good one, but it will lure us back to our virtual desktops.

Google, why do I ask you my life questions? And how does Yahoo always have the answer?

Maybe that’s why I spend so much time in front of this screen?

20 February 2013

When I fall, you call it flying with style

My wings unfurl in an impressive display
Of privilege, of power, of perfection
Muscles trimmed to an angular array
Ideal for flight in any direction
You assume I can soar
Go above and beyond this door
Out the window into the sky
Beyond the clouds, where the heavens lie
You think I'm some celestial Seraphim
Since I hold myself confident and trim
A book with a pretty cover and empty pages
Born in beauty, lacking substance for ages
A sham, a fake
No fish, a lake
A con with fidence
A mis with guidance
You think I'm the Tooth Fairy
And Santa with a beard so hairy
Like some epic hero with perfect flaws
Not a half-assed demon with unsharp claws
When I step off the ledge and spread my wings
You think I'll fly
But really I die
Plucking my feathers of potential
I fall

18 February 2013

The Journey for a Journey

I find myself at a crossroads. An intersection of various paths, each leading down different roads on diverse vehicles. I ask myself the cliche question: where do I go?

I've always loved projects. The process of generating ideas, filling them out, making a plan, setting deadlines, putting my mind to work, and building. Various projects have come and gone from my life, from novel-writing to painting to woodworking to fitness goals and self-improvement. All of these were journeys, but they were treks to the peak of a mountain, singular and finite. Although the path to the top was often grueling, with many setbacks and trials, I knew there was a goal at the end. There was something to work toward, be that a finished manuscript, a pair of workable stilts, or a new sense of self-confidence. Mountain peaks are an end. Rather than only climbing to a summit, I want to travel through a mountain range. I am searching for a journey without an end.

In the past month, I have finished writing the second draft of my novel. As the result of an impassioned month of word-vomiting in November, I created a sloppy first draft that I was relatively proud of and a piece worthy of the dispassionate editing that would follow during December and January. Being a traditional-medium book, it was the product of my longstanding commitment to writing. While this book offers many outlets for me to improve upon as a project (as I will have several more drafts to come), it is a mountain-peak project. It has an end. A bound and printed, sitting on a bookshelf, end. It is an end I plan to pursue, but nonetheless, an end.

I have had several ideas cross my mind for future projects, such as board games, films, pieces of sculpture, etc, and I am trying to sort through which of these will be bound or unbound, finite or infinite. For several years I have wanted to program a highly complex variant of chess. As a result, I have been learning computer programming to one-day fulfill this. In satisfying this, no matter how long the process to complete, it will have an end. I have drawn out loose drafts of scripts and screenplays, and have played with video-editing software in the hopes of eventually creating a masterful piece of film. While this goal may not be as reachable today as I had originally envisioned, the final destination for this work will be death--the end of a project. I have practiced painting and drawn out designs for furniture or ideas for sculpture, and even after pursuing and completing a handful of these, I know that any pursuit of them will terminate in a finished product, an end. Yet again.

Therefore, I am on a journey for a journey. A quest to find an ongoing project. Something that savors the trek and envisions no end. Perhaps I wish to grow and foster a relationship, be it emotional or mental, for the sake of ongoing growth and development? Construct a passionate courtship with an idea and strive for continual movement. I want something that replicates life. I want to enjoy my quest, as I strive forward with no predetermined end, as that is death. Ergo, what can I continue to build throughout my life? A journal? A photo album? A daily video recording?

I keep a journal of ideas, and plan to write at least 15 minutes everyday, but this is a practice akin to brushing my teeth or eating. I am inconsistent with taking photos and find this process to be meaningless and unrepresentative of life. Things like Instagram have created a universal portfolio for the world to share these similar snippets of instances. It won't do. How about videos? I have seen an ingenious work created by taking a one-second video daily and compiling the quick flashes over time to create a film of one's life. This is simple and brilliant, and something that should be surely spread to others as a form of self-preservation. I plan to try this general idea out, but I am not sure if it is what I am looking for. The relationship I seek with a project is something that can fully engage me over time, something that will require more than a second a day.

It is difficult journey to find. The process of seeking this journey will result in an end, an end to a new beginning of a never-ending journey. But where will I find this path? It is hidden and I have much ground to cover.

So I seek.

13 February 2013

Hand Socks & String Monkeys

As children, most of us were given toys which we were encouraged to manipulate through our imaginations. Whether we played with dolls or action figures, we took on the role of orchestrating their actions and encounters with one another. We projected voices and personalities, body language, thoughts, and relationships upon these inanimate objects, which instilled life into them. As time progressed and we matured, we often abandoned that sense of imagination through the cycle of socialization, as we were influenced by society to believe that a hold in reality is more important than a life absorbed in illusory fantasy. However, as civilized members of society, we are advocates for storytelling and the spread of life experiences. As time and technology progresses, those mediums of storytelling often change and transform, but the essence remains. While it began orally, storytelling has many of its roots in theatre and performance art. While as a civilization we prefer stories to be rooted in a realm of realism, the conventions by which we share these stories requires an effort of the imagination. A culmination of ideas and thoughts must be projected through concrete objects–products of reality–to display a more abstract concept of the world via fantastical insights. These imagined thoughts can best be displayed through a medium similar to our childhood toys–via object manipulation. As opposed to simply using objects as tools to do concrete activities, we can throw emotions and human qualities upon these objects to make them relatable to us. It brings them to life.
An example of this is best demonstrated through puppets and marionettes. Like oversized and more intricate action figures, these creations can be manipulated to tell stories of us, as humans. Similar to theatrical performances with actors and props, the art of puppetry relies on the imagination of the viewer and the exact manipulation of the performer. While the digital medium of film can incorporate more precise details of both acting and effects–to inspire the consumer of the media in a more prescribed fashion–live action performance captures a new state of magic. This real world effect inspires more fantastical thought as the performers must be adaptive and clever on their feet, making a more personalized performance, as no iteration of an act will be exactly the same. The same goes for manipulated objects, marionettes and puppets. Marionettes are controlled from above, with strings, while puppets are manipulated from within, by the hands. Taking this into consideration, a puppet often interacts directly with the performer, be it sitting in his lap and conversing or acting on a stage, with the manipulator hidden below. Conversely, marionettes are indirectly influenced by the manipulator, as the strings controlling the movements are tugged from above by an unseen person. Not only does the skill of controlling puppets involve adept motor skills and ventriloquism, but it encompasses the creation of compelling stories and the ability to create inspirational and well-constructed manipulatable objects that reflect us, as humans.
Although it may not be the most popular form of artistic expression, the world of hand socks and string monkeys is a beautiful medium of sharing stories and should never be forgotten. One effort to support this niche medium is celebrated in Ann Arbor, MI. Be pro-puppet and attend FestiFools this summer.

06 February 2013

Picking Away At Colossal Goals

After reading the ancient texts of Roman Kings and Empires, such as Caesar’s de Bello Gallico and the Res Gestae of Augustus, a common theme seems to have risen. Both of these leaders, pivotal individuals in the construction and flourishing of the Roman Empire, relied heavily on the support of their peoples. They conquered many lands and built a vast civilization over the long years of their lives. While these individuals were at the pinnacle of this movement, they were but orchestrating the continued construction of something far greater than themselves. They were contributing, bit-by-bit, to the construction of a multi-generational project–the civilization of a nation.
These accomplishments are a reflection of the honorable fasces–a symbol of strength through unity among the Roman people. These consisted of an axe encircled in birch rods bound by a leather cord, and were carried in procession of people of power as a representation of their leadership. The bundle of birch rods is a metaphor passed down through the generations to represent the strength and potential of the collective. While one birch rod can be easily snapped, as a single individual can only progress so far in his accomplishments, a bundle of these rods remains unbreakable. Caesar and Augustus would not have achieved much of anything without the strength of their people. In having a collective working toward a goal greater than any one individual, colossal potential can be reached.
The Pyramids of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and all other tremendous accomplishments of ancient peoples were accomplished through an adherence to a lofty goal and respect for a potential greater than one’s personal scope. With the current improvements in technology, accomplishing goals has become a more rapid process. Skyscrapers seem to go up overnight and cities appear within a few years, due to improved infrastructure and fast-paced lifestyles. In this increased speed of construction, people tend to lose cognizance of higher powers. Individuals tend to neglect the power of the collective (unless you consider the poorly infrastructured but highly effective hackivists, Anonymous) in regards to patience. Whatever does not incite immediate pleasure results in avoidance. As opposed to striving after ambitious goals outside the scope of quick completion, people settle for things in which they can see the end. However, true inspiration and accomplishment comes from looking past the scope of ready achievement. Be it in novel writing, empire building, or art, delayed satisfaction can yield truly breathtaking results.
One individual, Scott Weaver, has represented the strength of dedication and progress toward a lofty goal in his 100,000 toothpick kinetic sculpture of San Francisco–Rolling Through The Bay. While the project has already taken him over 35 years to construct, he is not finished. Weaver has represented, in the video above, that he is not finished. While the balls move down the tracks, he comments on how the speed is not perfect, and as one falls off the track, acknowledges that he must fix that. There is still work to be done and that work may never be finished. Just looking at the sculpture inspires a sense of wonder. A simple toothpick is so small, so mundane, but when coordinated with ten of thousands of its kind, it becomes something greater. I believe Weaver understands the idea of delayed gratification and the power of the collective. While he may have been the only individual working on building this monumental sculpture, the continued period of time he has spent in its construction is a different form of unity. It is the adherence to dedication, a trait that is not as largely expressed in modern times as it has been in the ancient world. With the advancements in technology, the application of this one trait–this prolonged perspective–would yield results unfathomable to our current minds.
Just as birch rods bound together cannot be broken, a journey of 100,000 toothpicks results in a legacy that cannot be forgotten. Toothpick-by-toothpick and person-by-person, the colossal can be possible.

04 February 2013

Thoughts on Social Media

Some Alt-Lit image-macros poems I made about how social media has affected me and made me think over the past year.

01 February 2013

Societal Weeds of the Seapunk Movement

For any gardener, the battle against weeds is an unending strife. One aims to cultivate beautiful flowers and shrubs in which they intend to plant. The gardener chooses the plants, their locations, their sizes, and ultimately their fate existing in the garden. In order for these hand-selected plants to prosper, the unwanted flora must be eradicated. The weeds of the garden must be pulled to ensure the fulfillment of the gardener’s vision. So much time and maintenance must go into the care of the cultivated plants, yet one struggles to kill weeds. They sprout up naturally and can thrive, despite any work of the gardener to trim them back. Weeds are always around and, from what I can project, always will be. Adamant and numerous, these unwanted plants can easily overpower cultivated material and invade and conquer an entire garden. While the gardener attempts to trim them back or douse them in chemicals to drown their lives, weeds take on an almost immortal state. Roots can crawl deep and wide, making the process of regrowth increasingly powerful. Mass quantities of weeds become overpowering to the imperialistic gardener. They persist. As illustrated by Thylias Moss in “Tarsenna’s Defiance Garden in which I Love to Spit, ” these weeds form a garden of defiance.
Are societal movements no different? Moss introduces an interesting thought about race and other targeted identity groups in society. Certain types of people are unwanted in specific regions. In some gardens, they are weeds. However, amassing larger enough numbers or being resilient enough, a weed may survive and prosper despite the overseeing power. Many great social changes came about through weed uprising. In a sense, many styles and fashions–art forms of all kinds–stemmed from a simple weed. They started out as an ‘other’–an alternative or deviant clashing of ideas–and rose to amass a following. Sometimes these movements involve a way of life or challenge a predisposed thought. With many weeds sprouting every day, it is difficult to judge which ones will persist–as is the case of any form of life, plant or otherwise. Currently, an alternative style of fashion and music has risen. Seapunk is still in the developing and young weed state, but it may (as anything) rise to a state of longevity. It is currently a sub-genre of electric music and a fashion/design trend with an emphasis on nautical themes. Using its resources as a weed, it began rising through pop culture via social media. As it is consistently being linked and shared across the Internet, it is becoming a niche style trend with a cult following.
Although strange, it is an interesting case of weed-like growth. Like any fashion trend, the roots of its acceptance are unknown and likely impossible to understand. In some regards, it has been said to support environmental awareness and sustainability, with specific interest in marine life. However, despite the cause behind this trend, it is somewhat prospering. It has an active presence on Twitter (#SEAPUNK), as this social media outlet was one of its top means of growth, and a widely extensive collection of photos and sub-pages under Google’s search. The style, as far as fashion goes, involves a heavy use of sea-like colors–blue, turquoise, teal, aquamarine, etc–in contrasting and vibrant mash-ups. Clothing can involve a variety of graphic designs which incorporate dolphins, anchors, waves, and any other oceanic pictures. Some individuals dye their hair varying shades of blue and green. In addition to these themes, there is a huge reliance on mashups from varying forms of pop culture. Numerous references to the 90s are common. It is quite out of the blue, for as far as a style goes, but it is a representative rendition of how society construes fashion.
 In addition to the fashion, the aspects of design and music are also worthwhile to explore. While the music doesn’t particularly scream ‘nautical’ to me, as it is not a remixed rendition of SpongeBob SquarePants, I would suggest it is simply another quirk–another stem from this societal weed culture. Arguing the environment awareness cause present for the Seapunk movement, the music could potentially incorporate defense for marine environments through the lyrics. Regardless of the purpose, the pure existence of this movement is what makes it important. With such a presence of social media in the world today, any niche, any idea, can be expanded and shared with others of similar interest. The so-called ‘weeds’ of society–the outliers, the alternative idea people–can form a solid relation and maintain a presence. This is not only the case with fashion and music, but, as illustrated by Moss, a means to an uprising and prospering of targeted identities. Let the weeds grow. Support #seapunk.